Mike Campau is a digital artist who creates imagery to help elevate brands, support a social cause, or just for the love of making art.
He uses various tools from my past experiences in illustration, graphic design, photography, and CGI. He previously worked with amazing brands such as Nike, Adobe, Apple and Sony. He currently lives in Michigan, he still plays soccer and love to run.
You can check his portfolio from his own web site.
How did you start combining photography and CGI?
I had an interesting journey that took a quite a few years to get to this point in my career. When I graduated from college, I found a job at a digital retouching studio that focused mainly on automotive clients.
While I was working at this studio, we started representing photographers and moved into a full service photo/retouching studio. This is where I started to learn more about photography and lighting. During the mid 90s I played around with some 3d programs, more as a hobby, but it got me accustom to the basics and learning the lingo.
A few of those programs included Poser, Bryce, FormZ, and Strata StudioPro. I even did a couple of the covers for the Poser software boxes and really enjoyed pushing the software to it’s limits. I took a break and concentrated a little more on the photography and photoshop side of things until around 2002.
This is when our studio dove into building automotive catalogs fully CGI, which involved more complex work using Maya, Alias, and Showcase (Autodesk’s realtime render viewer). In 2007 I was looking for an alternate option to Showcase and stumbled across MODO and it’s interactive render preview. I was hooked!
In a short time, I was getting more creative with CGI and made the decisions to concentrate full time on CGI and how to combine it with my other passion of photography and Photoshop. Since I was already a professional retoucher, it was a natural progression to use CGI to incorporate into our images, and vice versa.
You collaborate with photographers very often. How does it work in the process?
First, let me say that collaborations are incredible, and I would highly recommend every artists set aside time in their schedules to collaborate with another artists. It creates a nice dynamic that pushes you as an artist in a direction you wouldn’t have achieved on your own.
As far as process, it can work a number of ways. Sometimes a photographer has already shot talent in studio (or is planning a shoot), and will look to me to build something CGI to help push the concept. On the flip side, if I have a concept that needs a specific style of photography, I will reach out to a photographer and we’ll work together to bring the concept to life. People always ask, do you do the CGI first or shoot first? My answer is always, “It depends”.
In some cases, especially with people and movement, it’s better to explore the talent during the shoot to find the best angle, lens, and lighting that captures their personality and point of view. Then we can build the CGI around that perspective and match lighting. In other cases, the shoot might require a locked down camera to match an environment or set, and in this case it’s better to build a CGI rough to have on set for compositing the talent and making sure everything lines up.
Either way, it requires working together to solve the creative problem. Also, I think it’s important to note that collaborations should have a mutual benefit and input from both parties. It should be a true collaboration between skill sets, and not a mentorship, which are two different things. But both important.
Which one is better for you? Big clients with higher visibility or small clients with more creative freedom?
Big Clients with more creative freedom. Wait, that wasn’t an option? But seriously, it’s the real answer and what most artists look to achieve when doing commercial work. When a big name brand comes to you because of your work and lets you drive the creative intent on a project, that’s when you know you’re doing something right.
But to answer your question, I really enjoy projects that are true collaborations between myself and my client. Whether it’s a big client or small client, if we have mutual respect for what we do and we work together to come up with the best possible creative solution within the parameters of time/budget, then it’s a win, win for all of us.
Yes, I always want to make everything perfect and beautiful, but I also have a family to feed, and I have to remember it’s a business too and you have to let some things go sometimes.
What do you do in your free time away from the computer?
I love spending time with my beautiful wife and my 5 kids. We are water people, so we spend summers on the lakes in Michigan, or try to get down to the Florida beaches as often as we can in the winter.
I picked up wake surfing a couple years ago and love it. There’s something very relaxing about riding a wave and it’s a nice escape from the everyday. I also like to go for long runs to help my mental health and relieve stress. I don’t love to run, but I do love to eat and drink beer, so it’s sort of a necessary evil.
Other than that, I still try to play sports as long as my old body will let me. I’ve played soccer for over 40 years and just recently got back into playing basketball after not playing since high school.
As Vagon team, We really inspired by his works! His diverse projects and expertise in the field are really cool and we really enjoyed while talking with him.
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