Volker Rentsch, Graphic Designer
Volker Rentsch is an Illustrator and lithographer, with focus on advertising and scientific illustration. During his 14 years experience, has worked as employee (retouching, layout, proofing) in different premedia-firms for such clients as Deutsche Bank, Thomas Cook, Tupperware, Aventis, Ogilvy & Mather, Young & Rubicam. In 2006 he decided to set up for his independence.
How did you get started in the graphics industry? Did you start as a traditional illustrator?
My father had already been an excellent lithographer. So I knew the biz since my childhood. In 1990 I started apprenticeship as reproduction-photographer and scanner-operator. I learned some old-style-skills like airbrushing and the handling of two-space cameras and drum scanners. Quite useful! In 1993 I gained first experiences with Photoshop on Mac. So I didn’t really start as an illustrator but as a kind of artisan.
What made you pick up Strata 3D? Was there a specific problem/need that caused you to seek out a 3D application?
I was fascinated by the 3rd dimension and its abilities. Unfortunately the companies in which I was employed never attempted to work with 3D design. Very conservative! For myself I tried out several demos of 3D software. Although in Germany there are apps available in the native language Strata remained my favorite.
After I canceled my last job in 2005 I decided to get more active in 3D. So there was no doubt what software I would use – Strata 3D CX. In the meantime I updated to 5.1 and completed Strata with Strata Live and Strata Vector. Simply great features! There was no certain need except my curiosity and fascination.
How has your workflow changed since learning Strata 3D?
Strata has become a matter of course since I’m more familiar with it. It’s an outstanding fit with Illustrator and Photoshop. I use Strata to save time for retouching certain details like reflections or so on. Something like that can be done much easier in Strata. Insert the result in Photoshop – perfect. Another great thing is linking maps in textures. You don’t have to fumble around with paper-dummies after every correction. Your model stays up-to-date by modifying the maps for its surface, as for example labels. A further thing to mention is using Strata to convert models to Illustrator-files. Build your objects in Strata and export them as an Illustrator file. You need another view? Move the camera in Strata and export the file again. Imagine how complex it is to correct the view in Illustrator or Freehand.
What’s a typical day for you? What other software do you use on a regular basis?
There is no typical day. Someone gave me the hint for my working day: a third of the day looking for new clients – a third doing some jobs – a third doing the office work. Somehow that hint doesn’t work. As a small firm you’ll have to be very spontaneous. I completely work with Adobe – mostly Photoshop and InDesign. Everything fits together and makes for example the handling of color management quite easy. Acrobat Professional is my choice to handle and to examine the PDF/X-3s before they are sent to the printing-offices. HTML and CSS I write with skEdit. It’s an amazing little app. I don’t like WYSIWYG editors. The page sources they generate are often unclear and much to long.
How did you learn 3D, and would you recommend your method to new users?
At first I was just fumbling around in tools and menus. After lots of failures I started to read the manual. With some things that might be OK, but it’s not recommended in 3D. At first learn at least the basics please – then try out more.
Has the introduction of 3D into your workflow caused you to branch out and explore opportunities you wouldn’t have otherwise?
Oh, some jobs I’ve been getting by using 3D for design and layout. For example the gymnastic band is the label for a new webpage that will start soon. At first I did some 2D scribbles. The client has been satisfied but had a gymnastic band as his own idea. I decided not to photograph it but create it in Strata. So I kept more flexibility in modifying it. Same story with some other jobs. Another new client who was interested in my work with Photoshop seems to be very interested in 3D. I’m just aiming to do more illustrations for education and technical stuff.
Do you try to fit your personal style into your Strata work, or do you find the technology dictating your style?
The technology doesn’t dictate my style. After all I’m still learning every day. Much impressions I have sometimes seem difficult to implement. In the end there is always a solution. Sometimes it’s easy to find – sometimes it’s a little time-consuming. The limit might not be Strata but my knowledge of how to reach the wanted result.
Any advice for new users? Where to start, what to avoid, creative advice?
Start with some primitives, one a simple floor. Use different textures and look how they change by modifying their values. then modify the lights. As soon as possible use raytracing (ultra) and only spotlights, point lights and lightdomes in your simple test scene. Then spend lots of time to get familiar with the SDS-modeler. It’s a great tool!
Avoid too much light. The bright parts of your scene will get flat . While creating the scene do not always render the complete window. Use camera+shift+mousedrag to render the parts that are of interest. Avoid to using too many lights – costs a lot of time to cast the photons in case you’re using raytracing-ultra.
Creative advice? Oh, I like the cameras features. The sharpness depth is a very useful thing to get more realistic look to your renderings. For your camera try out positions that a real camera has its difficulty with. The shutter of the camera together with some blur effect might bring nice results if you render a frame out of an animation.