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RIT » Yekaterina Satanina
Jul 122015

And no, not the kind of breakdowns that we all had during the making of!


Nora and I (surprisingly? or not surprisingly) had no thesis breakdowns over the course of our senior year. I am extremely grateful for her as a partner and as a friend in the process. We made a silly movie about companionship, old people, and epic sword clashes. Nora was the co-director, producer, rigger, animator, and troubleshooter. I was the lead TD, co-director, animator, and compositor. Most of my my work was focused on modeling, set dressing, and shading – for both characters and environments. If you get excited about wireframes, definitely check out the project page of Brothers in Arms. There are plenty of wireframes to be seen.



May 172015

Done. And done and done. But only with this stage. Life moves on.

(Email me privately for the password, please.)

Feb 102015

I am in the last semester of my undergraduate program. There’s much to be done. There’s the thesis film, there are classes, jobs, freelance projects, and there is more learning and discovering.

And while I still have access to free software on the lab computers, I might as well…

So I’m in this 3D Digital Design class, called Advanced Studio, taught by Shaun Foster. It’s all about research and discussions on technology and design, workflows, and tools. At the core of the class is a semester-long independent study project of our own choosing. Great, I can sit in my comfort zone all I want! But no, not really. Ever since my summer internship at Pixar, I’ve been craving to get to know Houdini better.

Great. So, Houdini is a powerful tool for any kind of effect or simulation, and that’s what it’s mostly used for. However, it has strong procedural capabilities for many stages of the 3D pipeline.

I watched a fellow intern and friend, James Bartolozzi, do amazing things with Houdini during our time at Pixar. He used it for far more than just particles and effects – he used a simulation to drive the motion of a school of fish, and made it interact with interfering objects (sharks). He built this impressive and visually stunning quartz cave environment, using just Houdini for everything but rendering:

After our summer internship, James went on to intern at Side Effects, coincidentally. No surprise that they took him in to make more wonderful things with their software. During his time there, he created this piece, the Hive, entirely in Houdini:

All of this showed me that here, in front of me, is a tool with many possibilities and untapped potential. And I’d like to explore it.

This semester, I’m making it my goal to learn Houdini, and use it to create a scene with a procedural environment and effects.

It won’t be the lofty goal that I wanted to do initially – not the monstrous integration of Houdini, ZBrush, Katana, and Nuke with a renderer that I’ve never used before. That would have been nice, of course. However, there is no way it would be possible for me to complete such a task in a semester when I have so many other things at hand. Therefore, I’ve scaled it down to just Houdini (and perhaps some Nuke for post if I have time), and exploring proceduralism and effect simulation within the software.

I’ve looked into some other 3D programs that could potentially tackle such tasks. For a while, I was set on Vue. Vue looked like my dream come true: making gorgeous painting-worthy sprawling landscapes in 3D. I’ve read reviews, interviews, and random views on Vue (see what I did there?), and it seemed as though most people who’ve used it praise it. It is used in the industry a lot, judging by the number of studios and films implementing it. However, there are some downsides to Vue, and ultimately, personal reasons why I chose not to go with it.

Vue is a tool to make matte paintings in 3D. It is used a lot in conjunction with Photoshop, Nuke, and sometimes Maya. Most of the people saying wonderful things about it are concept artists or matte painters. From this, I deduce that it is more an artistic tool than technical, and that’s why I chose not to use it. As a TD, I find it more worth my time to learn something technical that goes against the grain of my thinking and pushes me further. I can make pretty pictures on my own time. For this opportunity to learn and expand my skill set (and branch out into realms beyond traditional modeling and set dressing), I would rather choose something to challenge me.

Besides, it looked like most terrain-building tools came with lots of presents and required little technical prowess, and frankly, often appeared cheap in the quality of their renders.

So I’ll be using Houdini.

As for what exactly I’ll be doing: mountains. Here are some inspiration images that I’ll be going off of:




Mount Rainier National Park

I can’t promise that I’ll make something as magnificent as Mount Rainier, but I’ll give it my best shot.

Coming up next: concept art for the project and first Houdini tutorials to figure out what’s going on.

Apr 202014

The following images are brought to you from this semester’s various Lighting & Rendering class assignments. As I really wasn’t able to update my page with actual projects, here’s a whole bunch of screenshots of what I’ve been working on from February till now.

Render layers exercise, mimicking an art movement (fauvism):


Same scene, caustics exercise:


Maya Software render:


Interior scene, render passes and GI:



This is my favorite class of the semester, and definitely a very dense class in terms of new information and skills. I get to do the things I like best: concept art, modeling, texturing, and lighting.

Although, I must say, GI and Final Gathering and caustics can be evil. One time, I checked the “emit photons” box on an environment image map in my scene, and Maya promptly and saucily told me to save the scene and quit the program. Just like this:

“Error: fatal. The system may have become unstable. Please save the scene and exit Maya.”

At least it gave me a chance.

Mar 292014

Last winter, I was hired by RIT Production Services. One of the luckiest things to happen to me in college. I am so very fortunate to be getting a production studio experience while taking classes.

At Production Services, I do a variety of tasks, ranging from concept art and design to 3D animation to visual effects. Every once in a while, have to track a camera. But for the most part, it’s a lot of fun! I work directly with the graphics manager and my student coworkers – graphic designers, motion graphics artists, video editors, and visual effects specialists. I also interact with the directors and sometimes contribute to meetings.

For 3D graphics, we primarily use Blender and AfterEffects. We just got Cinema 4D, and for my most current project I am learning the ropes of that!

Disclaimers: None of this material belongs to me. I do not own SportsZone, SZ Live HD, or any other name mentioned in the reel. I merely do the graphics. Not everything in the reel was done by me. For a breakdown with roles and contributors, go to the YouTube page of the reel. The music is “Wolf Like Me” by TV on the Radio. I do not own that either, using for non-commercial purposes only.

In other news, I finally caught up with culture and watched Frozen last night. Oh, man… So pretty. Such acting. So much work. Such hope for getting hired in the future.