We recently spoke with Christopher Rutledge, a Freelance 3D Generalist with a great sense of humour and an awesomely funny reel! Christopher primarily does FX work, Motion Graphics and Lighting for commercial projects, working with such clients as Adult Swim and Beeple and featured by Cartoon Brew but in his spare time, as much as possible he likes to create his own uniquely fun, signature work.
A huge self confessed nerd obsessed with the technical aspects of CG and exploring and pushing new styles of animation, visuals and storytelling. Christopher created HOUDININERD.COM to serve as a resource point for people also using his favorite 3D Software: Houdini.
Q: Hi Christopher! Your work is so cool, super fun! Could you tell us more about your educational background and how you got to where you are; working in the industry as a freelance 3D Generalist, creating such unique, fun and personal work yet finding projects that also resonate with your style, personality and sense of humour?
CHRISTOPHER: Thank you! I’ve been pretty serious about animation since I picked up a copy of Macromedia Flash MX 2004 in 6th grade, and was creating a lot of little flash cartoons and teaching myself 2D animation from that young age. In 2015 I transferred to the Pratt Institute in New York where I pivoted my focus to learning 3D animation. In school they taught us Maya, but on the side I also learned Cinema 4D, Houdini, and a bunch of other programs. I definitely brought the influence of making silly cartoons in my younger years to my projects in college, especially when I started my thesis project “The Loaf Zone.”
That film’s success ended up connecting me with Adult Swim where I made some other shorts (“Man’s Best Friend” and “Sensitive Hearing”.) It also helped me to make connections with other animators, who ended up passing me freelance gigs in New York at studios like Framestore and Ntropic.
Q. For your commercial projects such as “Food Play” – how did you get involved with that project or with Beeple’s “Pure Imagination”? That one blows my mind, but they all are pretty cool! There are so many interesting projects that you work on, how do you find them?
CHRISTOPHER: “Food Play” was super fun, the studio “Reactiv” (www.getreactiv.com) reached out to me after seeing “The Loaf Zone” to help finish up that project. It was basically just an in-house “for fun” project with no client, just to help the studio show off their skills and personality. They liked the humor from “The Loaf Zone” and wanted to see if I could help inject some humor into the project, and help out with the liquid sims as finishing touches for the final piece. Aside from that, it was mostly finished when they hit me up, so it was a blast to just help them finesse a few small things and have fun with it.
For the FITC titles that Beeple directed, “Pure Imagination,” he contacted me at the beginning of last year. I think he found me through the Mograph.com podcast which I’ve been on a few times. Working with him was really awesome, especially after having been a fan of his work for almost a decade.
Q. Our readers often wonder about the software, since you mentioned Houdini and I know you put together Houdininerd.com could you tell us more about that? Do you find most of the commercial work you do is using Houdini? What other software would you recommend for someone following your footsteps?
CHRISTOPHER: Learning Houdini has been such a worthwhile investment for me, and it’s now definitely my single favorite piece of software I use (and I use a lot). I think a lot of people see and hear what Houdini can do and aspire to learn it, I’ve definitely been asked frequently how I learned it. I ended up making houdininerd.com to make it really easy to point people in the right direction. I think with that resource, and enough time, anyone should be able to get to where I am now. That said, Houdini isn’t so much for beginners, so I also made threeDnerd.com for people just starting out who want help deciding how to get into 3D to begin with. These days, I would probably recommend Blender or Cinema 4D to most people just starting out with 3D. I also learned Maya when I was starting and I still use it sometimes, particularly for rigging and character animation, but Blender seems like a great alternative and it’s free!
I’ve definitely found the bulk, maybe 80% or more of my commercial work to be Houdini, since there just aren’t enough freelance Houdini artists in NYC for the amount of Houdini jobs that need to be done.View this post on Instagram
Super fun @sidefxhoudini liquid voronoi tests with scans from @_blankrepository and poliigon. On my way to SFO for @glasanimationfestival ! Hit me up 🙂 Oh and 🎵 by @b__wilder // Custodian 🎵 #render #animation #food #yummy #gooey #foodporn #3d #howiseedatworld #feltzine #redshift #mdcommunity #thegraphicpr0ject #houdini #simulation @motiondesigners @howiseedatworld @redshift3d
Q. Working with such clients as Adult Swim and Beeple and featured by Cartoon Brew among others your work has certainly gained attention, do you feel that you get a lot of attention via social media and short animated clips? Where do you see your work going in the next 5 years? Any specific projects or goals you’d like to share?
CHRISTOPHER: The work that gets the most attention by far is the longer form projects that I put the most work into, particularly the ones for Adult Swim, since they can use their platform to promote those projects. I do post a lot of clips and works in progress on my instagram, twitter, vimeo and youtube though. Some of those do fairly well and have resulted in some fun projects and connections, but it generally feels sort of random. I think it’s always good to be posting stuff though, and not let any of your work get lost forever on your hard drive that crashed with the only copy of it. I’d like to post more of my process, and maybe even do streams of myself working on stuff if it made sense. I have some ideas for where the next 5 years could take me. I would love to work on more shorts and maybe longer form stuff. Maybe pitches for shows, or even diving into indie game development. It changes all the time as new opportunities come up. At the beginning of the year I was approached by the artist Takeshi Murata to help him with some projects and we ended up using Houdini to build sculptures that will be exhibited in a gallery in New York some time in the spring, which is definitely not the kind of thing I ever expected to end up doing but has been really cool. So you never know!
Q. Do you plan to explore the AR/VR sector more, do you see any future developments in other areas of technology etc. that you as an artist resonate with or see as a “must know?
CHRISTOPHER: Definitely! I’m interested in seeing what I can make that can be experienced in AR/VR. I started making instagram face filters with spark AR at the beginning of the year which is a ton of fun. I’ve also been using VR for the past year as a tool for things like making sculpts with Oculus Medium. I start a lot of models in that program now before bringing them into Zbrush and then Houdini etc. I think a lot of CG work could be done with VR tools much faster and will keep exploring that. Also, the creation tools that have come to iPads and mobile over the past few years have also been impressive. There are just a ton of different tools and venues being made easily accessible to all kinds of creators now.
Q. Lastly, can you tell our readers more about you, and your hobbies and what you like to do in your spare time, events, hobbies etc.? and any advice for the newbie following in your footsteps?
CHRISTOPHER: I occasionally make music, not so much anymore, but you can find some old stuff on my soundcloud and spotify (under tokyo megaplex), which has always been a fun side hobby. I think having that as a side skill is also really useful for animation and blocking out things like timing before doing the laborious part of actually animating, so I would really recommend anyone interested in making their own longer form projects to learn some sound! I’ve also found that going to film and animation festivals is an incredibly fun way to stay inspired and help motivate oneself to make more personal projects. Other than that, the best thing anyone can do who is interested in getting into this stuff is just block out some time to do it. Feel free to hit me up through instagram or the discord on houdininerd.com if you are ever looking for help, always happy to lend a hand.
SOCIAL MEDIA INFO
We hope you enjoyed our interview with Christopher Rutledge, check out his links above for more information on his work.
If you have any questions or feedback on this blog, we’d love to hear it in the comment section below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author:
Lori Hammond, CG Circuit
Author & Content Producer
Experienced multi-talented Artist/Designer/Blogger with an extensive background in the Arts & Entertainment Industry(Animation, VFX, Game & Product Design)